"There are some people you feel like you're absolutely perfect with, like you're putting together a puzzle that all fits together perfectly, you don't have to try, you don't have to force it — it's seamless, it's easy," Shawn Michaels says of The Undertaker

By Jason Duaine Hahn
November 11, 2020 10:29 PM

On April 5, 2009, what's known among fans as one of the greatest WWE matches ever occurred in front of a crowd of more than 72,000 at WrestleMania 25.

Mark Calaway, better known as The Undertaker, faced Shawn Michaels in a bout that had drama, excitement, and an equal chance of victory for both superstars.

As Calaway marks his 30th anniversary as the menacing man in black, Michaels spoke with PEOPLE about their celebrated match and why it worked so well — even if the duo can't be more different

"There are some people you feel like you're absolutely perfect with, like you're putting together a puzzle that all fits together perfectly, you don't have to try, you don't have to force it — it's seamless, it's easy," Michaels, 55, tells PEOPLE of performing with Calaway, who will appear for a special segment called "Undertaker's Final Farewell" at Survivor Series on Nov. 22.

"I think it stuck out to me more with Mark than anybody else," he adds, "because we were so very different."

Over his career, Michaels was a fan-favorite for his skills and good looks, but Calaway's The Undertaker — who, at 6-foot-10, is nine inches taller than Michaels — was equally recognized among WWE fans for being quiet but seemingly indestructible.

The Undertaker, Shawn Michaels
The Undertaker (left) and Shawn Michaels
| Credit: Bob Levey/WireImage; Bob Levey/WireImage

The differences between the two men also weren't limited to their onscreen personas. Michaels is the first to admit he and Calaway weren't the best of friends backstage, but it was their handful of matches in the years leading up to WrestleMania 25 that showed them they had the potential for something great.

"Both of us would tell you we didn't really care for one another that much, but for there not to be any [problems during our matches]? It's hard for that not to glaringly stand out to you," Michaels recalls.

For 30 minutes at WrestleMania 25, WWE fans were treated to a match filled with chokeslams, superkicks, and multiple false finishes. Thousands of fans at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, broke out into a spontaneous "This is awesome!" chant midway through the fight — and it wasn't even the night's main event.

The match came to an end when The Undertaker caught Michaels midair and performed his finishing move, the "tombstone piledriver," for the win. Once backstage, Michaels said he and Calaway instantly knew they had done something special.

Check out more about the legacy of The Undertaker in this week's issue of PEOPLE.

"We just looked at each other and asked one another, 'Is it me or did we just do maybe the greatest thing I'll ever do in this line of work?' " Michaels recalls. " 'Am I the only one that feels like that may have been the most perfect, beautiful thing I've ever performed inside a wrestling ring in my life?' "

The fight — which is available to stream on WWE Network, along with Survivor Series, which airs on Sunday at 7 p.m. EST — was so well received that Michaels and The Undertaker faced each other in a rematch at WrestleMania 26 as the main event. The performance once again lived up to the hype, and while Michaels lost, it was a sequel worthy enough to end his career on.

Undertaker, Shawn Micheals
Credit: WWE

"You know the end is coming, and you want everything to be special, and you know you've got somebody out there to be able to do it with," Michaels says. "Everything felt like it was that perfect storm, that perfect opportunity to make it something unbelievably special and memorable. And then it ends up being all of that."

"We were two older men who have traveled a long journey, both together," he continues. "We've probably spent more time in a locker room with each other than with our wives. We've grown a lot, we've changed a lot, and we've talked about all of that, that growth."

More than a decade after his WrestleMania 25 match and its sequel, Michaels still looks back fondly at his performance.

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"There can be a beautiful building with lights, and glitz, and glamor, and all of these other things on the outside you see. But underneath that, very quietly, is an unbelievably strong foundation that makes the rest of it possible," he says, describing Calaway's importance to the company.

"He's a sturdy and dependable foundation in the WWE," Michaels continues, "and you simply don't have the rest of it without him."